September 14, 2011 Edition

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JPs discuss courtroom
scheduling conflicts

Leslie L. Ginn
Staff Writer

The need to accommodate judges who have heavy caseloads in Lawrence County was discussed by the Quorum Court on Monday.

Local attorney, Adam Weeks, explained the issue, "We not only have constant conflicts with scheduling for drug court and district court, but lawyers also need an area to resolve private issues.

"In addition there is a real overload on the circuit side of the justice system, including the criminal docket and civil trials," Weeks said. "Lawrence County is the only county on this circuit that has only one courtroom."

Weeks suggested that meeting with the judges and consulting the case coordinators would be a start in the right direction to evaluate the real needs. Courtrooms can be on the smaller size when dealing with cases of a private nature, like divorces and special circumstances.

"With the changes in the law, the district court case load will get much, much larger," Weeks said.

Justice Jim Jones stated that he believed the answer is building a justice complex that would have not only courtrooms but also a new jail, which is needed in the county.

A tax was discussed but the consensus was that a tax would not pass because of the difficult economic times.

"This problem is not going to go away," said Judge Dale Freeman. "We need to find solutions."

A group of justices are to meet with the judges to investigate immediate needs.

Justice Junior Briner reported that all paperwork on Rails to Trails phase three has been submitted and reimbursement is expected soon. Phase Four is in the works and the contractor is ready to begin within the week.

Briner also said that Lewis Slaughter and Rick Cooper made a presentation on the Lawrence County Rails to Trails project progress to the Highway Commission and $80,000 in grant money has been committed to complete the project in Phase 5.

"I am glad to see that the trails are being well used by the community," Briner said.

Briner also reported that a recent budget review showed every department was in compliance and 2011 spending was found to be within budget parameters.

"Since the county is doing well financially, the budget committee recommends that the Quorum Court approve 2011 longevity pay and a one-time $500 salary adjustment for employees and elected officials," Briner said. "This will be prorated for employees hired since January 1, 2011."

The court passed the pay increase unanimously.

In other business:

  • a resolution was approved regarding mutual aid agreements between Lawrence County and the offices of emergency management of surrounding counties. This agreement allows Lawrence County to both assist and call for assistance from surrounding counties in emergencies and disasters.

  • a financial cleanup ordinance was passed due to auditor findings.

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